Tag Archives: mpesa

Mobile Money Infographic for Kenya (2013)

The GSMA Mobile Money for the Unbanked unit has just released a new infographic on the history and metrics for Kenya’s mobile money giant Mpesa, from Safaricom. It’s an extensive and incredible chart. Download and save this one for later, it has all the information that you need.

A Kenya mobile money infographic (2013) by the GSMA

A Kenya mobile money infographic (2013) by the GSMA

Interesting figures for 2013:

Average value per transaction: $29
Percentage of GDP transacted: 31%

By April 2013 Mpesa:

  • Averages 142bn Ksh transacted per month. ($1.67 billion)
  • Has a total of 56 million transactions per month
  • Has 23 million customers
  • Has 96,000 agents around the country

Also in 2013, the Kenya government levies a flat tax of 10% on all Mpesa transactions. Safaricom also raises charges to counter this. All users now pay more, but it’s hidden so that you don’t see the charge, unless you do the math on the balance remaining after you send funds.

Means of money transfer before and after Mpesa

Means of money transfer before and after Mpesa

Quick Hits Around African Tech (May 2012)

This last month has kept me too off-kilter to get a good blog post up. However, there have been some very interesting happenings around the continent, here are the ones that caught my attention:

Pivot East

East Africa’s mobile startup pitching competition is just a month away. We announced the top 50 a few weeks ago, and now the 25 Finalists are named as well. Don’t miss this event, June 5 & 6th at the Ole Sereni hotel in Nairobi.

Google Releases “Insights Africa”

This truly deserves a blog post of its own… Google spent a lot of money and time gathering information from over 13,000 people across 6 African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda) to determine why, and how, people use the internet. This data is all openly available, with an outstanding visualization tool to see what the information really means, and compare it, at InsightsAfrica.com. My chart below is just one example, showing how people access the internet across these 6 countries:

Donors prioritized “industrial policy” in Asia, but “social sectors” in Africa. Why?

Kariobangi writes a compelling blog post on the difference between the aid that was prioritized for Asia versus that for Africa.

TeleRivet: An Android SMS gateway

Similar what Ushahidi offers at SMSsync, TeleRivet is a tool that allows you to use your Android phone as an SMS gateway. It’s more robust, offers an API, and makes it easy for people to get started on SMS and USSD apps. Mbwana Alliy writes up a blog post on why this is important, and the business prospects involved in utilizing this type of service.

WEF: The Global Information Technology Report 2012

The World Economic Forum’s annual report on IT has some good information on emerging markets. You can read it online here. Here’s the video:

ForgetMeNot and the rise of Africa’s Smart(er) Phones

BizCommunity has a good article on ForgetMeNot’s Message Optimizer service’s growth on the continent. This service delivers internet content to users who can only access that information via SMS. Here’s how it works:

“First, a mobile phone subscriber sends an SMS to a given short code. The message is received in the mobile company’s message centre, which then forwards to ForgetMeNot Africa’s internet servers. The servers process, route and deliver the message to the subscriber, who can then respond.”

Kenya study, impact of venture capital on small and medium sized enterprise

VC4Africa reviews a report on VC’s in Kenya. This isn’t just tech, but it is interesting and surfaces some great information. [PDF Download]

“The minimum profit before use of venture capital was Ksh 34, 866. Upon use of venture capital, the minimum profit increased to Ksh 600, 000. This shows an increase in minimum profit of 94%. The maximum profit respondents reported before use of venture capital was Ksh 38, 567,951 which increased to Ksh 62, 864,152 an increase of 63%. The average profit also increased by 69% (from Ksh 7,204,653 to Ksh 12, 202,775)”

Mpesa, a 5 Year Infographic

Just how big has Mpesa become? Take a look [PDF version].

Jason Njoku, Funding and Nigerian Movies Online

In Nigeria, Jason Njoku is at it again, raising $8m from Tiger Global Management, a US-based PE and hedge fund. Here’s an interview with him on Forbes. Iroko Partners is the world’s largest digital distributor of Nigerian movies and African music. The firm is YouTube’s biggest partner in Africa, boasting over 152 million views in 2011.

Will The Real Payment Disruptor Please Stand Up

Farhad Manjoo makes a compelling argument for why the real winners of the payments revolution are the same players we already know, the credit card companies and the banks, in his, “Don’t mess with credit: Why the future of payments is already in your pocket.

“Nearly every start-up working in payments is simply creating a new front end for your credit card. That’s not a small thing; we need new ways to use our credit cards. But we shouldn’t forget the true winners in this new marketplace—whatever innovations we see in payments over the next few years, there’s a very good chance that most of the rewards will flow to Visa and MasterCard.”

This is true… if you live in the US or Europe.

It’s also why Mpesa is so important, as it represents a new form as well as a new source.

Mpesa destroys the paradigm of payments as we knew it

It’s a good thing that Mpesa happened in Africa. It offered a new way of thinking about money and payments, without the legacy baggage of banks and regulations meant for another century. The powerful banking interest were held at bay, not by great power, but by indifference – this is Africa afterall, who cares about this market?

With Mpesa, and without a bank account:

  • People can send and receive money.
  • People can store up to $1000 in the system, creating a pseudo-savings account.
  • There are no credit card companies involved.
  • There are no banks involved.

Mpesa is big now too, big enough to garner a lot of attention from the the credit card companies and banks. M-PESA has over 14 million users in Kenya, 9 million in Tanzania, and hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and South Africa now too. It now processes more transactions domestically in Kenya than Western Union does globally, somewhere in the range of 25% of Kenya’s GDP is transacted on it.

The banks actively lobby against mobile-based payment and money systems now, globally, as it constitutes a massive competitive threat that they are unable to compete with due to a multitude of reasons, one of which is simple transaction costs. The credit card companies are watching closely too, and moving. Mastercard and Visa both are working on mobile offerings, seeking to link with mobile operators in order to bypass a would be competitor.

Mpesa isn’t perfect – we need a payment system that works across mobile operators and can be synced (easily) with any bank, if needed. While it could improve, it’s still worth pointing out the really big missed opportunity here is by Vodafone. Like I’ve said before, if Mpesa was rolled out at as an independent company led by Michael Joseph, it could battle the credit card companies of the world and unseat them in many markets.

What’s interesting to me is that in the arguments in the US and Europe on “the future of payments” the real innovation, with real numbers, isn’t being mentioned.

Update. some new blog posts on this topic:
Could we live without cash?
Payments, the more things change…

Michael Joseph and Mpesa: A Missed Opportunity

Michael Joseph was the CEO of Safaricom, taking the mobile operator from 5 employees to dominating the Kenyan mobile operator market with over 80% market share in his 10 years at the helm.  Regardless of your personal feelings on the man, you have to admire the tenacious approach he took growing the business, and his willingness to invest in his company’s future, thereby decimating his (often inept) competition. 

Possibly MJ’s (how he’s known in local Kenyan parlance) greatest business move was also a measured risk, that is being the company to take a software created by parent Vodafone Group and push it into the market.  That software: Mpesa, the most successful mobile payments system in the world.  Safaricom has more transactions each day than Western Union does globally in a year.  Yes, it’s that impressive.

When Michael Joseph stepped down in October of last year, he had a blank slate.  Only he knows just how many opportunities were out there, but I’m guessing there were many.  He just announced his next move, and that is to join the World Bank and “spearhead expansion of mobile money transfers” in their member states.  

“The first fellow under the programme, Michael Joseph, will advise the Bank and governments on spreading the use of mobile phone banking, drawing on his knowledge and experience at the helm of Kenya’s largest telecommunications service provider,”

All of the business acumen and cache that MJ has built up is going to go towards being the World Bank’s ambassador for mobile money.  Meanwhile, he is maintaining a role at Vodafone as a director, where he serves as an advisor on the expansion of Mpesa to other African countries.  That’s to be expected, as he’s one of their greatest success stories to date.  Both of these, though good, seem like a waste of potential, and I’ll explain why.  

A missed opportunity

No one in the world holds as much knowledge on how to deploy a mobile money system, nor how to grow it and operate it as Michael Joseph.  However, all of his success was penned in by the fact that Safaricom only serves Kenya, he could never grow it outside of the country in a meaningful way.  Forays into Tanzania and South Africa have happened, but aren’t seeing nearly the success as in Kenya.

Vodafone knows they’re sitting on a goose that lays golden eggs, yet it’s only laid a single egg – their problem is that they’ve not figured out how to duplicate its success.  

Instead of trying to hold on to Mpesa, they should spin it out as its own entity, put Michael Joseph at its head and let it take on the world (not just Africa).  

There’s a few good reasons for this move:  

First, Vodafone is too big and slow to do this internally, it’s like all of the services and startups eaten up by other large companies that die due to not being within an ecosystem that has an entrepreneurial bent, but instead are sucked down by bureaucracy.  

Second, no one else could take this brand global and have the ability to stand toe-to-toe with other operator peers around the world like MJ could.  It needs that type of personality if it’s to do what’s next.

Third, there aren’t many opportunities that crop up that allows you to take on massively profitable and embedded incumbents and win.  In this case, that’s all of the other payment methods, including credit cards and internet payment platforms.  Mpesa could become the defacto mobile payment system for the world – displacing other methods.

To be honest, I thought this was the obvious play when Michael’s time at Safaricom came to an end – for all of the players: Vodafone and MJ himself.  I kept thinking that surely there was a reason for them not moving on it, that it might have something to do with timing.  Instead, it looks like the big IP owner, Vodafone, is unwilling to take Mpesa big – and it looks like the reason why is that they’re unwilling to let go of control (now ownership). 

That’s how it looks from where I sit, if you know more, add it below.

The Kenyan Mobile Money Ecosystem

[This is a guest post by Ben Lyon of Kopo Kopo, and recently of FrontlineSMS:Credit, who I consider to be one of the leading experts on mobile money, banking and payments in Africa. Kopo Kopo aims to make the integration of microfinance and mobile money as affordable as possible by offering a software-as-a-service that connects m-money transaction data to customer accounts in a range of common loan management systems. You can follow Kopo Kopo on Facebook and Twitter.]

Mobile Phone with Money in Kenya

Kenya is by far the most exciting, innovative mobile money market on earth. Below is an overview of some of the major and upcoming players.

MAJOR PLAYERS

Safaricom M-Pesa
Launched in March 2007, Safaricom M-Pesa was the first mobile money system in Kenya. It is now the most successful mobile money deployment on earth, boasting use by 51% of the adult population. In addition to person-to-person transfers, you can use M-Pesa to remit funds from the UK to Kenya, pay bills, purchase goods, buy airtime, and, with the launch of M-Kesho, move funds to and from an interest-bearing account with Equity Bank. Fun fact: Safaricom M-Pesa has more agents in Kenya than Wells Fargo and Wachovia have ATMs in the United States.

Airtel Money
Formerly Zain Zap, Airtel Money is the second largest mobile money system in Kenya. Prior to its acquisition, Zain was focused on creating a “cashless society” whereby any number of needs could be met via mobile money. Zain was also committed to its notion of One World, the idea that a Zain customer in Country X should be able to call a Zain customer in Country Y a at local rate. One World was the source of much speculation with regard to international person-to-person mobile money transfer. It will be interesting to see if / how Airtel changes course, especially with regard to pricing.

Orange Money
Orange Money launched in late 2010 in association with Equity Bank. Instead of offering the same features as M-Pesa, Zap, or yuCash, Orange opted to create a de facto front-end for Equity Bank accounts, allowing it to exceed regular transaction and m-wallet balance thresholds.

Essar yuCash
Essar yuCash launched in December 2009 and is powered by Obopay. yuCash offers some standard features such as person-to-person transfer and balance inquiry as well as some unique features like requesting money, adding a short message to a payment, and inviting friends to join. yuCash is also unique insofar as it offers five different front-ends: WAP, SMS, Voice, USSD, and STK.

Equity Bank
Equity Bank is the largest microfinance institution in Kenya and is nothing short of a powerhouse. It has an extensive ATM network throughout Kenya and has integrated with M-Pesa (M-Kesho), Orange Money, and yuCash.

Musoni
Musoni is at the cutting edge of microfinance, enabling loan disbursal and repayment via Safaricom M-Pesa and Airtel Money. Musoni plans to conduct country studies in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda in the coming years.

Paynet Group
Paynet is responsible for all Visa transactions in Kenya, interchange for 2,000+ ATMs, and PesaPoint. Due to their interaction with Visa, they are PCI DSS compliant, meaning that their system is both redundant and incredibly secure. Paynet aggregates and formats transaction data for several mobile money providers in East Africa.

UPCOMING PLAYERS

iPay
A product of Intrepid Data Systems, iPay enables merchants to accept online payment via Safaricom M-Pesa, Zain Zap, and Essar yuCash. Prominent users include PewaHewa, Fenesi, and Zetu.

PesaPal
PesaPal is a product of Verviant Consulting that, according to CEO Agosta Liko, aims to “make sense of the Kenyan payment landscape”. PesaPal lets online merchants collect payments via M-Pesa, Zap, Google Checkout, and a range of common credit cards. Their latest product, e-Ticketing, allows event organizers to accept online payments for registration via mobile money.

M-Payer
A recent product of Zege Technolgies, M-Payer enables real-time mobile money transaction processing. The CEO of Zege Technologies, Kariuki, played an instrumental role in the M-Pesa / Equity Bank integration that resulted in M-Kesho.

Lipuka
Powered by Cellulant, a company that serves 60M+ subscribers throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Lipuka integrates bank and payment channels to enable music downloads, bill payments, and information services via WAP.

Moca
Formerly called ZungukaPay, Moca is a product of Symbiotic Media Corsortium. ZungukaPay enabled online merchants to accept payments via M-Pesa, Zap, yuCash, PayPal, Google Checkout, and a range of common credit / debit cards. ZungukaPay also had an open API for integration purposes. The new product, Moca, takes a different turn by enabling customers to buy ‘Moca credits’ via mobile money, which they then use to pay for goods and services on partner websites (e.g. KeleleMobile). Fun fact: selling non-refundable credits precludes Moca from being seen as an e-money issuer by the Central Bank of Kenya.

JamboPay
A product of Web Tribe Limited, JamboPay is an “Online Checkout & Micro-Payment Service” that enables merchants to accept online payments via M-Pesa, Zap, yuCash, and Visa credit/debit cards. JamboPay has a tariff structure similar to PayPal in the US: a commission per transaction + a flat fee for any transactions initiated over the JamboPay web platform.

MobiKash
MobiKash, a third party mobile money provider, is operated by MobiCom Africa Limited in partnership with Sybase 365 and Seal Systems. MobiKash leverages USSD to give Kenyans on any mobile network real-time access to accounts at participating banks, including Post Bank, National Bank of Kenya, and Trans National Bank. MobiKash uses the Sybase 365 Mobiliser Platform.

KrossPAY
Formerly PesaPot Holdings Limited, KrossPAY worked with PAYG Solutions to develop a hosted core banking and financial management platform for microfinance institutions, credit unions, and community benefit organizations. Some PAYG Solutions programmers were involved with the creation of M-Pesa, so there may be a mobile money integration in the works. KrossPAY also offers a “universal mobile money transfer and payment” service called CaribPay.

Jipange KuSave
Jipange KuSave is an initiative of Mobile Ventures Kenya Ltd., a subsidiary of Signal Point Partners. Launched as a pilot in 2010 in partnership with FSD Kenya and CGAP, Jipange KuSave aims to extend affordable micro-savings and micro-credit to the ‘mwanachi’ (Kiswahili for ‘common man’) via mobile phones.

Tangaza Limited
Managed by Mobile Pay Limited and a network of independent trustees, Tangaza enables both local and international money transfer as well as services like utility bill payment and remote airtime purchase. Tangaza is accessible via USSD and the internet and works across multiple mobile networks.

NOTABLE M-MONEY INTEGRATIONS

PewaHewa
PewaHewa is similar to the iTunes Store insofar as you can browse for musical artists, albums, genres, etc. and purchase songs via mobile money. PewaHewa is powered by iPay.

Kalahari
Often referred to as “the Amazon.com of Africa”, Kalahari offers a wide range of online goods and services, which customers can pay for via Safaricom M-Pesa.

Kilimo Salama
Kilimo Salama, Kiswahili for “safe farming”, is a crop insurance product offered by the Sygenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. Kilimo Salama enables farmers to pay crop insurance premiums and receive payouts via Safaricom M-Pesa.

Banks Blocking Mobile Money Innovation in Africa?

There’s an good post over at the CGAP blog about mobile money’s innovation crisis. The author claims that nothing new has happened in mobile money since Mpesa was launched in Kenya, except for maybe the launch of Mkesho this year in Kenya as well. Besides that, everyone around the world pretty much tries to duplicate what Safaricom is doing in this space.

Why?

“There may also be one partnership in particular that could be hampering innovation—that with the banks. Historically, these two players have taken very different strategies for new product development, especially in resource poor countries.”

Thinking big picture

You can send up to $500 for as little as 37 cents using Mpesa. On Zain it will cost you 74 cents. That’s an insanely low transaction cost compared to what banks charge, and that’s not even going into the fact that they can’t do transactions as low as 50 to 100 Ksh ($.60 to $1.24). The kicker, you can store your money in it for no fee at all (unlike the usurious rates that the banks charge).

Simply put, banks cannot compete with mobile operators when it comes to transacting payments for the majority of Africans.

Regulators make and enforce the rules around everything. How do they make their decisions, who lobbies them and why? Is the reason that we haven’t seen a true replication of Mpesa anywhere besides Kenya due to the banking sector protecting its interest?

Opportunity lost

Right now anyone in Kenya can do every type of transaction within our own borders, and if creative into neighboring countries as well. A few other countries have the ability to do this type of thing as well, if less efficient and/or elegantly conceived.

Currently opportunity is lost by local merchants in not integrating mobile payment structures better into goods and services offered to both businesses and the public. This is changing, businessmen are quick to move to figure out new ways to increase margins and customers. It’s only held back by the operators not willingly opening up their platforms for easier integration into business.

11% of Kenya’s GDP was shifted through Mpesa in 2009, and the company expects that to be around 20% this year.

We can all agree those are big numbers and that a massive ability to make money has been shown in Kenya. This begs two questions:

  • Why has no one allowed it to truly replicate in another country?
  • Why is no one throwing big money after this, trying to figure a way to scale a mobile operator and bank agnostic payment solution across a region, if not the whole continent?

There are big players trying to break into the greater African market (I’m looking at you Naspers). There are banks who have the money to spend on figuring this out, but aren’t thinking beyond their own brand, so continue to fail. Maybe the answer is we just should sit here and let all this lost opportunity continue to drift by us, waiting on the big credit card players of the world like Visa or Mastercard to make a move.

That’s a fatalistic stance, and I certainly hope it’s not true. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see this service come from 2 guys coding in a garage. Instead, I hope that there are mobile operators and banks banding together to make something bigger than themselves that make more profits for everyone. If not them, a big investor willing to wager millions of dollars on making billions.

MKesho: Linking Banks and Mobile Payments

M-kesho banking with mobile phone in Kenya

People are excited about M-Kesho (money for the future) which launched yesterday, where Safaricom has linked their mobile payments service Mpesa as a joint venture with Equity Bank in Kenya. This basically extends Mpesa into a bank and insurance company, with the future offer of microcredit as well.

  • Equity bank has 80 branches in Kenya.
  • Mpesa has 17,500 outlets in Kenya.
  • There are approximatey 8.4 million bank accounts total
  • Equity has about 4.5 million bank accounts
  • Mpesa has 9.5 million users
  • Kenya has 107,000 credit cards in circulation

See the pattern? These are are big companies with huge local connections and inroads into the popular culture. This is a strong indicator that every Kenyan will have access to banking and insurance via mobile phone very soon.

“This is a bank account introduced by both Equity and Safaricom where customers can earn interest from as little as 1 Ksh. Customers can withdraw cash from their Equity Bank Account to their M‐PESA accounts and customers can also deposit through their M‐PESA accounts to their M‐KESHO Bank account. Other features of the account include Micro credit facilities (emergency credit availed through M‐PESA), Micro insurance facilities as well as a personal accident cover that translates into a full cover after 1 year. For one to open this account, the person must be an M‐PESA subscriber.”

Reality Check

As others have pointed out, there have already been links between mobile payment systems like Zain’s Zap and banks like Stanchart. So, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking and new. Why is it big then? It’s big because of who is doing it: the giants of the banking and mobile sector.

Rombo has written a particularly good post about M-Kesho. She asks some hard questions, like who really benefits out of this deal: Equity or Safaricom?

It’s hard to say, but I wonder if the pressure put on by regular banks onto the regulator about how close to a bank Safaricom’s Mpesa really has forced their hand. Did they have to choose a banking partner in order to stave off the regulator, or did they do it to increase market share and positioning?

Finally, I think this move, like the moves made by Safaricom in the past on this mobile banking space are shortsighted. Yes, it gets them more subscribers and it does solidify their grip on the mobile market in Kenya, that is working. However, mobile money and payments are much bigger than just one operator or one bank. Becoming the “Visa of the mobile payments space” all over Africa (the world?), is a much bigger deal than being the biggest fish in Kenya’s small payments pond.

PesaPal: Kenyan Web & Mobile Payments

Start local, then Africa, then the world. That’s the mantra app developers in Africa should be repeating to themselves as they build their game changing tools. That’s what Agosta Liko and his team at Verviant are doing with their new web and mobile payment platform: PesaPal.

Pesapal Logo

PesaPal is an eCommerce platform focused on Kenya. It’s built to work seamlessly with Kenya’s main mobile payment services; Zain’s Zap with approximately 300,000 users and Safaricom’s MPesa with around 2 million users.

The Need

Most Kenyans do not use credit cards, many are unbanked, and there is no consumer-oriented payment system in the country. PesaPal is aimed squarely at these wananchi (ordinary Kenyans). It’s a way for local vendors to offer digital payment for goods in a systematic way that they can track, and in a format that Kenyans have and are familiar with: mobile phone transactions.

Think of PesaPal as akin to the services offered by PayPal and Google Checkout to businesses – except that it actually works in Africa. (long rant coming if I continue down that thought path…).

  • Phase 1 (this release) is about vendors being able to receive money, think mCommerce, ticketing, education, online stores, etc.
  • Phase 2 (time TBD) is about paying money, which would include things like payroll, payday loans, micro-loans, etc.

How it Works

A prototypical business might be someone who manages a school or a vendor who wants to sell products via a website or billboard. They would come and sign up with PesaPal and get approved mobile phone payments set up using their own Zap or Mpesa account.

At this point the business is up and running and can receive payments.

If the business has a website, there are a few more options. They can pay a one-time fee of 4,000/= ($50) and get a pre-built plugin for common website content management systems like Joomla or osCommerce. The more advanced implementers can access and use the exposed web services (API) that PesaPal has built to allow for merchant and buyer verification or transaction processing.

A good example of this is Totally Toto, a website that sells children’s clothes and delivers them locally. Their only option in the past was cash-on-delivery, with PesaPal they are now also accepting, and tracking, payment in advance.

Totally Toto - payment options

The business model for PesaPal is a transactional one, where they make approximately 15/= ($.20) per transaction that uses their system. I’m in favor of this because it gives PesaPal a great incentive to grow their user base and provide a service that truly helps vendors using their tool.

Further revenue opportunities for the PesaPal team include customized product integration, web site design and licensing of more advanced API functions by larger organizations.

Out of the box in phase 1, users will have:

  • Immediate receipting and confirmation
  • Transaction details stored for 7 years
  • Vetted merchants/vendors
  • Monitoring for KYC (Know Your Customer) and AMC (Anti-money Laundering) to protect vendors
  • Safe and secure hosting within Kenya, the same place that Swift (money transfers) hosts theirs

pesapal_scheduled_payments

The People and the Business

Agosta Liko is the Founder of PesaPal. He brings to the table a wealth of experience working in the US banking sector, Insurance field and Consulting. Agosta has worked on Wire Transfer, Loans Origination and Anti Money Laundering Systems for First Citizens Bancshares in USA. Paul Mungai, PesaPal’s Chief Software Engineer has over 5 years experience with Verviant Consulting Services where he worked on a wide array of ecommerce outsourcing projects. Onesmus Kamau Kagwanja, PesaPal’s Chief Technology Officer has been building software in East Africa for years, creating enterprise-level applications for some of the larger insurance companies in the region.

Agosta Liko

This background gives the seasoned team a particular edge when it comes to doing this work in Kenya. It has also helped them to bootstrap the venture, to build the application, launch it and keep them running through next year. The need and the ability to raise funds locally is a big deal in and of itself, and it’s a big mark in PesaPal’s favor that they’ve been able to pull this off.

It takes more than just pushing the “go” button on a website to make a business take off. It also takes deep pockets to launch a country-wide marketing campaign, a necessary expense for consumer products. Look for a major billboard, radio and web push by their team starting in October.

Quick Hits around African Tech

Understanding what drives Mpesa agents
Growing the agent network is one of the most challenging parts of a mobile payment system.

“The number one cost for most agents was liquidity management – moving cash. Agents report a host of expenses, including bank charges, transport costs, and fees to aggregators who advance commissions and provide easy float/cash swaps for agents. On average, liquidity management consumed 30% of total expenses.”

Asynchronous Info, Disjointed Data and Crisis Reporting
Jon Gosier talks about Uganda’s riots and what he’s learned in the process.

Africa’s diaspora and the cloud
Teddy Ruge writes a great essay on the web and Africa’s diaspora.

“There’s a cloud gathering over Africa; a storm of connected thoughts and ideas that are pushing African countries violently forward. The Diaspora is using emerging web technologies in increasing numbers, frequency, and variety to stay connect with Africa, simultaneously charting a new digital course for it’s economic independence on the world stage.”

New Africa broadband ‘ready’
The BBC Digital Planet team is in Kenya and doing a knock-up job of interviewing people about what’s going on around the tech space there.

Emmanuel Kala in Nairobi
(Note: all the people in the BBC “in pictures” for this day are part of the Ushahidi extended dev team in Kenya)

Mobiles offer lifelines in Africa
Ken Banks writes about mobile phone growth and development in Africa, stating “Africans are not the passive recipients of technology many people seem to think they are.”

Quick Hits Around African Tech

I’m thoroughly enjoying Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid” book. Buy it, has great food for thought, and numbers to back it up.

The New York Times article on big web content companies lack of profitability in places like Africa.

We’re seeing a new trend of microblogging platforms emerge across Africa. Most recently in the Congo with Akouaba, but also in Nigeria with Naijapulse and South Africa’s Gatorpeeps.

Matt Berg writes about the “Off-grid solar calculator” in North Africa.

Mobility Nigeria points out that Nigeria displaces Germany in the Opera Mini top 10 list.

Bankelele breaks down some of mobile payment tool M-Pesa’s strengths and weaknesses in Kenya.

We’ve announced Ushahidi’s Beta stage, and another round of funding.

APC talks about the broadband rollout issues and a movement to change policy in South Africa.